STAFF REPORT IBD: The key to future development and growth of WiMAX lies in industrial-based solutions in Pakistan. Since the WiMAX is confronting with numerous bottlenecks towards securing a high growth in the country, the WiMAX operators need to re-evaluate their business strategies in order to regain the market share and meet future needs.
The technology, after witnessing a surge during its early days, is now suffering from stagnant growth in the country, as the unhealthy macroeconomic situation has made foreign investors reluctant to pour more money into their WiMAX operations.
“I strongly believe that industrial-based solutions can bring the WiMAX technology out of the prevalent grey area as a potential strategy to build investors’ confidence, such as on-ground communications in aviation and ‘smart grids’ for electricity management,” explained Declan Byrne, President of WiMAX Forum, at his meetings with government officials during his recent visit to Pakistan. Purpose of his visit was to inform them of the challenges faced by Pakistan’s WiMAX operators.
The WiMAX Forum is an international trade group which represents the interests of WiMAX suppliers, manufacturers and operators worldwide. WiMAX Broadband Internet was officially rolled out in Pakistan in February 2008 which positioned Pakistan as the first country to roll out WiMAX services throughout the whole country in the world.
Meanwhile, even as the auction of 3G licences is expected to suffer more delays after the government cancelled the contracts of foreign consultants hired to monitor the auction, Byrne says the WiMAX Forum will welcome 3G deployment in Pakistan.
“The 3G cellular networks, if deployed, would most probably be able to support good internet browsing,” Byrne says adding however, the 3G is not going to solve the data problems or answer the data appetite that Pakistani consumers have. “This problem can be resolved effectively if WiMAX and 3G operators collaborate with each other. Cellular network operators in Pakistan could use WiMAX networks for data offloading and backhaul,” he offered.
Even if the 3G is introduced in Pakistan, the provision of this facility across the country would remain a distant dream expectedly for a longer time as it would be available only in certain urban areas at the initial stage.
Currently, Mobilink Infinity, PTCL, Qubee, Wateen Telecom and Wi-Tribe Pakistan are being offered in the country.
Byrne said that it is inevitable that the future lies in wireless broadband internet connections since they can substitute fixed broadband (DSL) through mobile internet and WiFi hotspots. Looking into the future prospects, if the need for wireless broadband is established, there is a huge market for WiMAX subscriptions in each of the 27 million households in Pakistan. In Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore and Rawalpindi alone, the penetration possibility hover over 7 million households.
The WiMAX technology is definitely a serious competitor in future for broadband in Pakistan since it has the ability to roll out broadband very quickly so operators can speedily expand their footprints if things work out with telcos. Not to ignore the fact that the highest penetration of WiMAX globally is witnessed in Pakistan, with WiMAX being nearly one in every three wireless connections.
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, being the watchdog of the telecom sector, will have to work in line with WiMAX operators in order to offer a level playing field to all broadband technologies.
According to market experts, installing a large number of WiFi hotspots at regular intervals in major commercial hubs and business areas would be a good proposition for WiMAX operators. WiFi hotspots are usually used as community infrastructure and their typical range is 100 meters. Think about this: deploying 100,000 hotspots could significantly change the competitive landscape, they said.
To survive and grow, the WiMAX operators would have to look beyond plain vanilla broadband service, and add value to their offerings. More importantly, they need to create niches for themselves in areas where WiMAX can deliver.
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